Tag Archive for childcare policies

Contracts and Policies for Childcare

Contracts and policies are so important for your childcare business. If you don’t treat your business like a business, it will not run as well as it should and you will probably end up burning out. If you are having trouble establishing your paperwork for your business, read on and find out how to develop it in a systematic and simple way.

Contracts deal with time and money, policies are rules about other things. Contracts must be signed if you change any part of them, policies can be changed as you wish. The contract is a legal binding document, the policies just help spell out expectations. Tom Copeland has some great advice on writing a contract, click here to check it out.

Let’s start with contracts and handle policies next.

What does your childcare contract need to cover?

Your business rules can be whatever you want them to be with the exception of any type of discrimination. Think about what is most important to you and set your business up with those rules. Click here to see what many seasoned childcare providers think are the most important rules.

Your contract should state your name, the parent’s names and the children’s names childcare is being provided for.

Your contract should state the days and hours you are open and which of those hours care is available for this family. Some providers are open something like 12 hours a day, but only watch each child for a certain number of hours such as 9.

Your contract should state any holidays you will be taking and whether they are paid or not. It should also include vacation days for you and whether those are paid or not. It’s a good idea to get paid for some of your days off if not all of them. Most parents have paid holidays, why shouldn’t you? 

The contract should state what parents owe you. Weekly fees, field trip fees, art fees, transportation fees or whatever fees you are going to charge need to be outlined in the contract. It should also state when they are to pay you. I allow parents to choose their paydays for me but they have to stick to those days. There is no saying, I want to pay once a month and then coming in and saying, I’m going to pay for this week. We have to sign a new contract and AGREE that we are changing payment dates.

Your contract SHOULD state that parents have to pay a week in advance for care. You should stick to this rule, it will save you so much trouble in the future.

Your contract should state what parents are responsible to provide and what you provide. My contract says parents are responsible for diapers, wipes and a change of clothes.

Your contract should introduce your substitute and for what situations that person would be left in charge of the kids. No one should come to pick up and find someone they don’t know watching their children. 

The contract should state how the care provided will end. My contract states that two weeks’ notice is required to terminate it. Parents are responsible for paying for two weeks if they decide not to finish care. My contract also states that the first two weeks are a trial period for parents, provider and child. That way if I decide a family is not a good fit for my business, the contract will end.

Your contract should state that you are a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse and sex trafficking behaviors. This is something that should be handled up front and having it in your contract is a great way to get it out there.

Discrimination-make sure you state you do not discriminate for any reason and make sure you don’t. It’s not okay to choose clients by race, sex, religion, national origin, or disability. This is illegal. My contract states, children will not be discriminated against for any reason.

It’s a good idea to disclose something that may be of concern to parents. My DHS worker suggested I disclose our pets and our religious beliefs. I think this is a very wise idea. We always have cats, so the interview is a good time to talk about that in case someone has a child that is allergic to cats. I have watched children of pagan parents, atheist parents, and agnostic parents. I am a Jesus loving Christian but I disclose that in my contract so no one is taken by surprise. You would be amazed at how well we worked it out. I told them up front we pray, the kids learn about God and Jesus, etc. They were fine with it and dealt with it in their own way at home.

Being open and honest is the best policy in any situation. If your husband is at home 24/7 and helps with the daycare, parents have a right to know that. If he works odd hours and sleeps during the day, they should know that too. If you have grown kids that visit or live in the home, have a friend over to visit, or anything like that, it’s important to disclose it. Anything you think might be of importance to a parent, it’s best to let them know up front.

Signatures should be on the contract, both of the parents if possible and yours.

Please make sure you don’t include rules in your contracts and policies that you are not willing to enforce. What this does is show parents you are not serious about any of your rules. If you’re not willing to make people pay a late fee, take it out of the contract. The things in the contract should be very serious and always enforced.

Keep your contract as short as possible. Parents are much more likely to read a shorter contract and to pay attention and take notice of what is mentioned there. Policies should be as short as you can make them as well.

Contracts and policies have similar purposes, but some differences. The remaining items you want to communicate to parents will be in your policies.

Does your state have any rules about what has to be included in your policy book? In Oklahoma, we do. Click here to see the requirements and a sample of my policy book.

Some of the things childcare policies should include are:

Discipline and guidance procedures.

Procedures for the day. Let parents know anything about how you run the business that would be of importance to them. You can’t expect them to always have their child their by 9 am if you don’t let them know that is your rule.

Your outdoor play policy. I take the kids outside to play, weather permitting, any time it’s between 40 and 90 degrees, that is in my policy book. Also, kids get dirty here. We garden, we play hard, it’s a dirty job to be a kid. So, I let people know that in advance.

Your daily schedule or activities kids will participate in regularly.

Your inclement weather policies. How do you deal with dangerous weather? Do you close on snow days? Parents need to know what to expect.

Your training and education.

Emergency contact numbers.

What are the reasons you would chose to terminate care? Those should be explained in your policies.

Emergency and disaster plans should be in your policies as well. Parents should be informed on what procedures you will take in caring for their child should a disaster or emergency occur. Where might you relocate to? Where will you shelter? What supplies do you have in place for children’s safety?

I have a form at the end of my policies for parents to sign they have read and understand the policies. I feel that covers me from any extra problems later with someone saying, I didn’t know anything about that.

What do you do if someone does not want to follow your contract and policies? This is a big indicator that your business relationship with this person is not going to work out. You need to tell them it’s not a good fit and you cannot provide care for them. If they cannot agree to your rules, they will not respect your business and the way you run it. It will not turn out well, I promise.

Making sure your business is being run like one will help you gain respect and appreciation from your parents. Having contracts and policies in place will show families you are serious and want to give high quality care to their kids. If you act professionally and show your parents respect, they are much more likely to respect you. If you are giving and receiving respect from your parents, you are much less likely to burn out and hate this job. You will enjoy your work and be successful. That’s what I’d really like to see for everyone.

Feel free to ask any questions and I’ll answer them if I can. I’d love to help you make sure your business is all it can be. Let your contract and policies work for your business and you!

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Business Practices for Family Childcare

Running a family childcare home IS running a business. We need to treat it as such. There are a few things you need to be doing in order to have good business practices that will save you so much headache in the future. Every move you make in your business sets a precedence for how your future business will be handled. What do you want to become?

daycare business practice

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YOU NEED A CONTRACT! Many providers think they don’t need a contract because they are just babysitting. No so! This is a business that involves money transactions and if you don’t have a contract in place, you have no protection for yourself. Get a contract made. You can click here to see what Tom Copeland recommends about contracts or get his book “Family Childcare Contracts and Policies”


It’s best for your contract to be only one page. Figure out what the 10 most important things are to you and make those your legal and binding contract. Do you want to get paid? On time? Have parents pick up on time? Charge late fees? What do you want parents to be responsible for? These all need to be addressed in the contract, especially if they involve money or time.


You should have a separate policy and procedure packet that outlines your expectations for the families you serve and what you plan to offer to them. This should be as short as possible as well, no more than two pages. The shorter your paperwork is the more likely parents will be to read it. Remember that less is more.

Do you need a license? In Oklahoma you must be licensed to care for even one child. Click here to see what the requirements are to get a license. Whatever state you live in, you should check to see what the law is You don’t want to be breaking the law and not know it.

organizing daycare paperwork

How should you set your rates? You should set your rates at a competitive rate for your area. Each area has different price ranges. One way you could determine what to charge is see what DHS subsidy rates are and decide if you could work for that amount. Decide what you want to offer and whether that should be more or equal to the current rates offered by DHS or other subsidy agencies. It is not lawful to discuss rates with competitors.

daycare business practices

How can you raise your rates? If you are currently a provider you may be wondering how you could raise your rates to become more appropriately funded, or be able to keep up with the cost of living or increase what you are able to offer. In that case, you should give your parents as much notice as possible so they can plan for their budgeting or look for alternative care. I would never give parents less than a one-month notice. You need to be fair to them and consider they are trying to make a living as well.

My contract states that I raise my rates every year on September 1. If I need to raise them, I do it then, if not, then I look generous for not doing it. I typically raise them every other year. There have been times I raised them two years in a row and there have been times I’ve gone more than two years. I just do whatever I need to in order to provide for my family. I find that if you are fair with your parents and open, it does not cause problems to raise rates. You need to do your best every day to provide excellent care so people don’t mind when you need to charge more.

How can you get parents to pay on time? This is a problem many providers have. People forget you are working for a living and need to pay your bills with the money they pay you. One way to keep from having people rack up a huge bill and then quit, owing you money, is to have them prepay. This eliminates a lot of problems for everyone. You don’t want to have to take someone to court to get past due fees, so make sure parents pay tuition BEFORE services are rendered for that time frame. Many providers have a no pay, no stay policy. That’s the best way to protect yourself against lack of payment.

What should you do in the event a parent writes you a bad check? This has happened so many times over my 21 years of service. Everyone can make a mistake and bounce a check, but there are people who are chronic offenders and continually write hot checks. My policy is, if you bounce me a check, it’s understandable. You pay in cash to cover the check and any fees I incur. If you bounce me a check twice, you reimburse me in cash and I no longer accept anything from you but cash.

good business practices for daycare

How can you get parents to pick up on time? We have all been there. We have plans to be somewhere after work and parents don’t pick up on time. If you hate late pickups, you need to have late fees in your contract. Many providers charge a dollar per minute, some charge 5 dollars per minute. What you need to do is make the fees fit your tolerance level. To me, a few minutes once in a while is no big deal, but it is a big deal if someone comes late all the time. They are saying, my time is more valuable than yours and that’s not okay. You need to either be happy with how your parents treat you or change something to make it work. If you have late fees in your contract, you NEED to enforce them. There is no point in having the contract if you don’t stick to it.

It’s typical for providers to be very compassionate. By nature, caregivers must have squishy hearts. You also need to have a business mind. You should not allow parents to take advantage of you because of your giving heart. You should not allow people to break your rules. They will not respect them if you don’t. You have to also be a professional business person.

What is your sick policy? You need to decide how sick is too sick to be in your care. You need to express this to the parents BEFORE you start providing care so if a child is sick, you already have a policy in place that parents understand. This will avoid a lot of frustration for you and them as you navigate providing care for them. Do you want to set a maximum temperature that you won’t keep? Do you want kids to be fever, diarrhea, and vomit free for 24 hours before they return? Are you going to make no nit policy for lice? You need to discuss these procedures before there is a situation.

What is your policy about kids being absent? You should be able to have a steady income in your business. My absentee policy is if children are absent, or if it’s a holiday, parents pay. I do not, however charge for my vacation days. I plan them in January for the entire year, so I can budget ahead for not getting paid. Many providers charge for their vacations, and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t because my parents may have to pay someone else to care for their kids.

daycare business practices for success

I do take paid holidays and I do require payments when families are on vacation or kids are sick. To me, that’s a great compromise. You need to do what you feel is fair and what works for you. One thing I would NOT do is give them unlimited unpaid sick days. People tend to take advantage of you if you give too much. Make sure people know ahead of time they pay whether their kids come or not. It’s not fun to plan to pay a bill and have someone call in sick and not pay you for those days. It’s much easier to budget when you know ahead of time so consider that when making your policies.

How do you advertise? There are many great ways to advertise for your business. Newspaper, online groups, craigslist, flyers put up at pediatrician’s offices, parks, grocery stores, or other places families attend. Church is a great networking place to spread by word of mouth you have openings. Resource and referral agencies are great too.

You could make business cards and staple them to candy and give them at trick or treat. You could do all kinds of clever things to advertise. The number one best way to stay full you’re your childcare business is to be awesome and let that spread by word of mouth. I have always seen providers who struggle to stay full and the reason is no one is recommending them to their friends. Think about that when you make every decision you make throughout the day when dealing with parents. They can make or break your business.

How do you attract clients? Parent involvement is super important to keep your childcare full. Click here to see some ideas of how you can draw your parents in and get them involved. When they are emotionally invested in what you’re doing because you involve them, they will be more likely to recommend you to other parents. Make sure you are meeting their needs as well. That’s part of your job. If you have a super nervous mom who is scared to death to use childcare, it’s up to you to comfort her and show her her baby is okay. Send pics during the day, text her it’s going great, or whatever you need to do to help her feel better. She will reward you with business for years to come. Each family is an investment in your future.

How do you get training? You should be getting as much training as you are able to get to make yourself the best provider you can be. There are many great ways to get training. You should have a local r and r that will help you acquire training. You can get classes online in many places such as CARE courses, CECPD has online courses, and Early Learning Innovations are great places to get online training. Check some of them out.

You can also learn better skills as a provider by reading as many books as you can get your hands on. I would totally recommend “Conscious Discipline” by Becky baily and “The Great Disconnect in Early Childhood Education” by Michael Gramling. They will change how you see your job, I promise.

Every step you take towards becoming a more professional provider will be another step towards making your business a smashing success. You will love doing business in a way you can be super proud of and that starts with being the best you you can be. Believe in yourself. You have something unique and amazing to offer the world and they won’t know it unless you let it shine for them to see. Toot your horn, share your accomplishments on Facebook, talk about your day with people, tell your friends and family how important your job is. We can change how people see what we do and show them it’s not just babysitting, it’s running a professional business and we have a special gift to offer the world.